The Weekend Reader – March 7ish (Toronto Comicon Apologia Edition)

First of all, even though it really slowed down the Weekend Reader, the weekend at Toronto Comicon was AMAZING. I will follow up with a post on some of the amazing artists but, for now, I will try and catch up on the week that was BEFORE the weekend…

And, of course, you probaly already know what John Travolta will call you when you meet him…

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The Weekend Reader February 14! HAPPY LOVE DAY!

Enjoy it while it lasts, because we all know what happens after Love Day:

Lots of (random) links today:

 

I treat this time of year like Thanksgiving- I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes me happy and what I can do for others. So, just because it’s Love Day, here are (very random) things you’ll love:

And me? What do I love? I love you guys. You’re all such awesome creatures- throwing yourselves against the walls, trying to knock ’em down and let more of us in. Keep working hard. Keep accomplishing great things that seem impossible. And keep being excellent to each other along the way. 

The Weekend Reader – January 24ish

A short and late list this week/end… But some really good reads:

1- A really interesting article from The Guardian on live theatre versus recorded broadcast of theatre productions. The article is really thoroughly thought out and well-written, but I’d like to dumb down its conclusions:

Not everyone lives in a place where live theatre is common. And not everyone can afford to travel to see theatre. Conversely, there are people who live in Brooklyn and never visit the Statue of Liberty. The stars aren’t always aligned for a live performance to meet an audience and, since we now live in an age where we can have live performances preserved, why does anyone feel the need to be an elitist prick about it?

2- An article from THR about Ride Along that seems pretty ho-hum, until you read the comments. There is a strange trend to break down movie demographics for films that appeal to women or minorities. Anyone know why that happens? Or if THR is more guilty than other outlets to do so?

3- The DGA, Lexi Alexander Getting Real and an Infographic. Women in Filmmaking at Sundance (via Indiewire) … I hate to say it, but the Sundance study seems to really lend some credibility to the hypothesis from many corners- including Lexi Alexander’s blog post- that women just aren’t given as much of a chance to work in Hollywood.

4- Yet another awesome ep of Scriptnotes. I know you’re probably already all over it but, in case you’re not, it was focused on female directors with guest Carolyn Strauss. Listen to it.

Where Can I Sign Up For The Aline Brosh McKenna Fanclub?

I say this a lot, but there are a ZILLION reasons why you should listen to Scriptnotes. Here is but one more incredibly awesome reason…

The year-end edition of Scriptnotes is a Q & A from their latest live episode. Lots of great questions (you can read the transcript in full as well), including a question about the lack of female action writers. After asking the writer if she was interested in writing action herself, this was Aline Brosh McKenna’s answer:

Aline: Just do it. Who cares? Who cares? And I’ll tell you something right now. It would work for you because right now if I saw your name on a script and I was like, “Oh, who is that, that’s a female woman who wrote this kickass action script, that’s great. Oh, you have to see her. She’s adorable. She’s got this cute gray coat. She’s going to kick your ass.”

And it’s going to be like, oh, it’s not going to be like the 20 other dudes who look the same who are in cargo pants. It’s going to be like we have this girl. Her action kicks ass. People would freak out. They would be so excited. And if you’re putting up that barrier in your own mind, forget it. Put it down.

Yeah. That. We should all do all of that, in whatever genre we choose. Welcome to 2014. (And thank you, Aline)

Best Bits of 2013 – The Year of Screenwriting Dangerously

There are a glut (a word I do not use lightly) of “best-of” lists that appear this time of year. Originally, I wasn’t going to add to the pile at all, but I wanted to recap the work of screenwriters I’ve enjoyed in 2013. I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of so much great wisdom this year, so I figure this is the least I can do.

(A disclaimer- I am not a movie critic, so my viewing isn’t as thorough as someone who watches movies for a living. I see a lot of movies because I write movies. I sometimes gravitate more to movies/genres/stars/writers I like. And there are still a handful of unseen films on my must-see 2013 list, as listed below. So, better yet, don’t even consider this a year-end list. This is just a collection of films I liked in 2013 that had awesome writers and creators that I’ve learned a whole lot from. Enjoy.)

1-Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg – The World’s End

The only film I can ever imagine seeing in a theatre 13 times (which I really did do) because I am so much in love with the Pegg/Wright aesthetic. Shaun of the Dead turned me on to a whole genre and Hot Fuzz turned a genre I already loved on its head, but The World’s End was something… else. Something really beyond your average film-going experience. Something really smart,  invaluably sweet and utterly enjoyable.

Screenplays for all three films are available on The Ultimate Three Flavors Cornetto® Trilogy Blu-ray™ and there are oh-so-many how-to writing and filmmaking bits floating around online that the guys have shared in their decade-long writing partnership. A huge inspiration to me.

 

2-Ed Solomon – Now You See Me

My all-time favourite screenwriter since forever turned out to be the coolest, sweetest and most generous writer, possibly ever. Did I mention the smartest? Also, probably that. And did I mention I love his work. Swoon. Just swoon.

I was really enchanted by Now You See Me (remind me to post more about how great Mark Ruffalo always is) and I can’t wait to see whatever he works on next.

 

3-Katie Dippold – The Heat

I watched The Heat in theatres, on planes, in airports, in bed. I loved everything about it – including the performances and director – but I especially loved the funny and fearless script. It also prompted the realization that Katie Dippold was one of the few female screenwriters I could actually name… And that was part of the reason why this blog was created in the first place.

 

4-The Great Teachers of TX (Austin, to be exact)

I have been promising myself every year, literally, for nearly 20 years that I would make the trek to Austin, Texas to spend a week of sun and fun there during SXSW. Finally, this year, I made it… almost. I made it to Austin just in time for the 20th Austin Film Festival. I do not regret that choice. Those folks aren’t kidding around.

They say it’s a writer’s festival and they mean it. I spent a lot of time and money on screenwriting events over the past 12 months and, though Austin was kinda pricey, a lovely bunch of people made it worthwhile, including:

Craig Mazin – Identity Thief

Craig Mazin is really, really good at his job. Aside from the weekly Scriptnotes podcast with John August, he wrote both this year’s Identity Thief and The Hangover Part III. But it was Craig’s A-Game at the AFF that floored me. Especially his panel Structurally Sound. I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried but, man, it felt like a whole screenwriting education crammed into an oh-so-brief session (in a very tiny room, even).

Listen to Scriptnotes

 

Shane Black (with Drew Pearce) – Iron Man 3

This year, after a long and flirtatious courtship, I really fell hard for Shane Black. At AFF, listening to him talk in such loving, dulcet tones about noir, hard action, insane thrillers and Iron Man… You had me at noir, Shane. You had me at noir.

Listen to the brilliant On Story Podcast with Shane Black

 

Vince Gilligan – Breaking Bad

This was the year of Vince Gilligan was capped off with the heartbreakingly brilliant end of Breaking Bad. I very nearly expected the AFF crowd would organize a parade to hoist and carry him through the streets. And deservedly so.  In the lead up to the AFF, I did some binge-watching of classic Gilligan-penned X-Files eps like Memento Mori and Drive. I have so much respect for someone working at that insane level of talent.

Listen to the lovely On Story Podcast with Vince Gilligan

 

(Side note: is it weird that I can’t find any of the video from the Austin Film Festival? They seemed to film everything, and there was so much good stuff… If anyone knows where I can point to, let me know!)

5-For Heroes, Thrillers and those Lost in Space

Joss Whedon (with a little help from William Shakespeare) – Much Ado About Nothing

Find someone Joss Whedon hasn’t inspired and I’ll give you a nickle. I have a lot of nickles and I’ve never had to give one away. (I forgot about Much Ado initially, only because I first saw it at TIFF in 2012. It was magic, though, no matter how or when or where you saw it. Enough with the Marvel nonsense Joss! Make more Shakespeare!)

 

Nicolas Winding Refn – Only God Forgives

Another early entry that may not be for everyone, but film I liked from a generous filmmaker nonetheless.

 

Scott Z. Burns – Side Effects

There aren’t enough straight-up adult thrillers. I don’t think Hollywood ever had an era where they cranked out an excess of these. There’s no time like the present…

 

Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke – Before Midnight

I love these movies. Richard Linklater has written a bunch of other brilliant movies. Julie Delpy has written a bunch of other great movies. Before Midnight is a masterclass in everything.

 

Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron – Gravity

One thing I’ve learned in 2013 is that the more movies you watch, the more cynical you can get about the strained, cookie-cutter fare that seems to rerun endlessly. If you ever wake up feeling like that, watch Gravity. Or anything Cuaron, really.

 

7-The New Kid

Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station

I’ve already declared my Best Picture for 2013 because the only movie that made my heart stop in 2013 was Fruitvale Station. So, if you haven’t seen it, do. And if you’re the type who votes, take it under consideration.

Read the unlikely story of Ryan Coogler

 

Still playing 2013 catch-up (some are available for reading right now, thanks to Go Into The Story for the links):

Enough Said by Nicole Holofcener

Dallas Buyer’s Club by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack

Saving Mr Banks by Kelly Marcel

Philomena by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope 

Nebraska by Robert W. Nelson

Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom by William Nicholson 

August: Osage County by Tracy Letts 

Inside Llewyn Davis by Joel and Ethan Coen

 

And, yes, this is still my favourite clip from 2013. No contest. Happy new year indeed.

ICYMI: Roundup of Must-Reads from 2013

You`ve been busy writing. You`ve spent a huge chunk of the year, brow furrowed, trying to figure out what will happen to imaginary people who live in places that don`t exist. It sounds crazy, but it`s true. So, be sure to sit back and take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments.

And, as soon as that moment is over, get your ass back to reading and writing.

Here`s a (very short and quickly assembled) list for your holiday reading pleasure. Of course, you can scan back over the (brief) history of this blog and (hopefully) find more content, links and reading of interest to you.

Most importantly, no matter how measured your success in 2013, keep chasing your passions. Remember that hard work will always get you somewhere.

And all the other crazy cliches you can think of… Or:

The Black Board Presents Everything On Women Working In Film and TV

From Go Into The Story: Read (and learn from) 2013 Screenplays

Listen to the Scriptnotes Holiday Spectacular

Vulture and The Toughest Scene I Wrote

A list of Movie Cliches You Must Avoid

Read the wisdom of FILM CRIT HULK

Practice what [Mystery Executive] preaches

(Though there is really nothing better on Twitter than Stay Puft.)

Get thee to thy Black List

Even though Hollywood ain`t perfect, don`t forget that the tech sector is a sexist timesuck for women (especially as board members)

So always be thankful for what you got. Now drink up, and let`s boo boo. Happy Holidays!

 

Aline Brosh McKenna on Scriptnotes and Gender Issues in Screenwriting

I love Scriptnotes. I`ve said it before and I`ll keep saying it- Scriptnotes is one of the most positive screenwriting resources I`ve found, and I rely on it (and on John August`s website in general) a whole lot.

And, even with all that love, I just caught up with last week`s must-hear episode on Positive Moviegoing.

(Read the full transcript or listen to episode 119.)

Aline Brosh McKenna has proved to be a great guest on the podcast (this was her fourth appearance). The trio covered a myriad of topics surrounding Positive Moviegoing, and it`s Aline who brings up the disparity in numbers of women working as screenwriters (if you`re listening, it comes up around the 59 minute mark).

Three very different (and very interesting) theories emerge:

John August – I wonder if culturally we have a different expectation about men in their 20s, it’s expected that you are broke, and you are sleeping on couches, and that your life is a disaster, but you’re doing all that stuff and so eventually you’re going to break through. And we perceive a woman who is doing that as being a failure.” 

I really identify with this idea. I think there is, still, a cultural expectation that women are expected to only be doing certain things with their time. Or wanting certain things, even. For myself, as I slogged through the ups and downs of being a professional writer in my 20s, I was practically surrounded by girls who seemed to care most about who they were dating or how lovely they could make their homes look. Honestly, I knew few women who identified themselves with anything even remotely resembling ambition for their own lives. And practically none who were willing to sacrifice relationships and home comforts to achieve any kind of dream they might have had that was their own. I have heard more than one woman say something like – Oh, I would love to take time out to write. After I`m married and I have a couple of kids, I`ll stay home and do that.

Wait, what?  Writing is not a hobby, or an abstract idea, or even a particularly strange way for a lady to make a living. Writing is a vocation. Some people work hard and sacrifice to make it a real job for themselves. I have never understood why women. generally, don`t always seem to take it seriously. I`ve honestly never heard of a man who says he`s going to wait until he`s married and has a couple of kids to start writing. I`m going to guess that he just writes.

Craig MazinI wonder if this is something in terms of the gender thing that women are trained by the world around them, if not by their parents, to not aggressively go after what they want because they themselves have an inherent desirability. That they are instructed to essentially play hard to get and to let things come to them.” 

Interesting. I kind of agree with this as well. Society really rewards women for very specific things, and desirability (as Craig so eloquently put it) it number one on the list with a bullet. So, if you focus your energy on making yourself desirable, or even likeable in some cases, that`s time and energy you`re taking out of your life. Poof, it`s gone, and you can`t spend it on other things. I think it`s fairly culturally obvious that women spend far more time worrying about being likeable than men do. And, as we all know deep down, the only way you can get ahead in anything is not listen to the haters. There will always be haters.

Aline Brosh McKenna – “I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why there aren’t more female screenwriters and I think it’s this aspect of being an entrepreneur. You are really running a small business which is you. And you have to put yourself out there every day and wear your sandwich board of like, “I’m interesting. You’re going to listen to me.” And I think that women are attracted to things where they can demonstrate excellence in a somewhat prescribed fashion. That’s why women are killing men in colleges and graduate schools. But screenwriting is not like that.” 

… I think that it’s not a thing that we encourage women to do from childhood is to really say like, “I’m interesting…” 

“… it takes a leap of faith and a confidence in yourself to say, yeah, I’m a writer, I have something to say. Because essentially what you do as a writer is you say, “Listen to me.” 

“… what I didn’t know is you’ve got to have the goods, be good at what you do, serve that apprenticeship of becoming good at what you do, but you also have to say, “My point of view is valuable. Listen to me. I have something to say.”

But what I would say is if you’re trying to get into Hollywood screenwriting, which is a more Mandarin, closed system, you have to bet on yourself.”

I included a lot of what Aline had to say because, really, I think she`s landed on something that could (and should) be one of the great solutions. The equalizer.

It`s true for everyone, of course- you have to believe that what you have to say has value in order to say it. But that`s virtually impossible when you start out with little (or no) faith in yourself. If your society, culture, family and friends are all telling you that your value is limited (or even nonexistent) your voice is going to have to be loud enough, and faith in yourself strong enough, that you can drown out every bit of noise that comes at you.

And you know what? It can`t be done. Not every minute of every day. No matter how much support you have. At some point, someone is going to call one of your female characters a bitch and you are going to get bummed out, lie on the couch, eat Chicago Mix and not shower for a couple of days. And you know what else? That`s OK. Giving yourself permission to write is giving yourself permission to fail. So, when you`re ready to dust off the crumbs and start again, everything really will be OK. I promise.

Thanks to John, Craig and Aline for letting us listen in. (And thanks to Stuart for typing it all up!)

 

 

Capturing The Damsel

When I started delving into screenwriting about 18 months ago, Tuesday quickly became one of my favourite days of the week. And, every Tuesday still, we are gifted with a new episode of Scriptnotes.

Last Tuesday’s episode deals with the weirdness of the Austin Film Festival (I mean, I know Austin is supposed to be weird but the AFF was truly weird. For me, at least. Though I added to that weirdness, I am very sure.) and the goodness of T-Bone Burnett (who makes a very valid and relevant point that should be paid attention to…).

But the bulk of episode 116 is devoted to discussion of the death of Damseling. The call for change starts around the 14 minute mark. Much like the rest of us, though August and Mazin are incredibly great at their jobs, they don’t have a solution to retire this old chestnut for good. But at least they’re calling it out and talking about changes in their own work. Or, John August so eloquently puts it:

“It’s simple, it’s lovely, but it may not be the right choice.”

 

John August and Craig Mazin and Scriptnotes live? Oh my!

Question- do you listen to Scriptnotes? If you’re interested in screenwriting, you should. I was surprised how many people I talked to at AFF who hadn’t heard of Scriptnotes, but then the live Scriptnotes panel was pretty packed, so maybe I was just talking to the wrong people…

On top of the magic that was live Scriptnotes (including Rian Johnson and Kelly Marcel even!) both John August and Craig Mazin presented panels of their own. And both were in the same teeny, tiny room. John August talked about the evolution of Big Fish (see it on Broadway!) and Craig Mazin gave a talk designed to make every screenwriter’s life easier.

Those three panels alone were worth the price of admission to AFF. If you have the chance to see some live Scriptnotes for yourself, you really should. Really.